Female Solo Performance: Robyn and Planningtorock

Robyn, Call Your Girlfriend

Robyn, Call Your Girlfriend

Planningtorock, Doorway

Planningtorock, Doorway

Music videos are pretty tricky nowadays. On one end of the spectrum, they are an invaluable artform that music artists use to complete a muiscal thought. On another hand, without MTV and with YouTube, music videos are now semi-irrelevant, remaining as outlets for unwanted money to be placed toward.

Moreover, a lot of music artists are performing less and less in their videos: music videos are all about spectacle, to make people think visually rather than aurally. The performer is less of a musical performer, but rather a film actor or–in many situations–not at all present in the video.

Two recent music videos have restored my faith in the sub genre. Both are by female artists and both are without any bells or whistles: they are just artists performing their song without too much fanfare. The result of both have begged repeated views and made it known that, yes, these musicians are more than just audio thinkers but visual performers–visual artists, if you will.

The first is a video that blew up last week: Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” The video is simple enough: Robyn singing and dancing by herself in a light filled warehouse. Aside from being a visual pun of another song of hers, the video lacks a true narrative and, instead, is all emotive. Instead of a video where she’s hanging out with the guy she is speaking to in the song, we see Robyn the performer emoting the feel of the song physically. The way it’s shot (all one take) and the way it’s choreographed (woven in and out of not dancing) do more storytelling than anything else: Robyn’s simply performing is the song.

Similar–yet very different–is Planningtorock’s “Doorway.” Released earlier this year, PTR does nearly the opposite of Robyn in performance style. Instead of playing within the physical space, PTR–who directed and edited the video herself–plays with the lack thereof, relying on her facial expressions to tell the story. The camera remains focused on her face, as she divides into two of the same faces staring into or away from each other: the effect–along with slightly disfiguring prosthetics–illustrates her alien point of view.

Both videos personify the meaning of a song through a solo performance, giving the ability to perform as a non-traditional actor. Unlike a music video of thess musicians playing with a band or live or as cartoon characters or even with a written “story” to the video, these musicians use their bodies to tell the story. The result is a pure, anti-ADD performance video–something I find terribly valuable as musicians are lost, awash in clothes, dancers, special effects, and other things to distract from the performance itself.

KYLE

June 9, 2011